Frugal Low-Carb Meals
In our family, most of us eat modest amounts of whole grains, but we try to incorporate generous amounts of healthy fats and complete proteins from meat and eggs into our diet, eating a higher fat, lower carb diet than is the norm in modern America. We avoid most processed foods and reserve most forms of sugar for children, for special treats. (I eat a sugar-free, grain-free diet.)
A couple of friends have asked if I would write something about how we eat well on a tight budget. If you are interested in this approach to health, take a look at The Skinny on Obesity. These videos (the first four of seven have been released) are very well done and very informative. They're well worth watching for anyone, regardless of whether weight loss is a goal.
A diet too high in sugar and grains can cause damage independent of weight gain. The issue is not just weight, but health. Over the past several decades, government machinations like the Food Pyramid and farm subsidies have dramatically changed in the way our culture eats. We eat less fat, fewer eggs, and less meat but have vastly increased rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other disorders. The so-called "diseases of aging" used to be rare among the aging and didn't "run in families" like they do today.
I don't think that our way of eating needs to be as expensive as many people suspect for two reasons. First, since a generous-fat, moderate protein diet is very nutrient dense, we eat less food than we would on the standard American diet. (We've noticed that our kids don't snack as much when they are eating lots of healthy fats and complete proteins.) Second, many people have far more energy on a high-fat, nutrient dense diet, meaning that a nutrient dense diet has the potential to lead to increased economic productivity.
Here are some of our general guidelines.
We don't buy--
- Most snacks
- Processed foods
- Rice, crackers, cookies
- Sweetened drinks of any kind, including juice
(We do have 100% juice with sparkling water a few times a year as a punch for the kids, almost always with a holiday meal.)
We do buy--
- Dark chocolate
- Eggs, which are the cheapest complete protein.
We make lots of crustless quiches and egg casseroles--eggs, cream or half-and-half, veggies, meats, cheese if the budget allows.
- LOTS of butter when it's cheap
- High quality oils (we use mostly coconut, olive, and peanut but other better oils as we find them) from Bent-and-Dent grocery stores
- When meat is cheap, we will buy very large quantities.
I like to brown twenty pounds of ground beef or cook several chickens and dice all the meat at once. I spread the meat on baking sheets, freeze, and then pack in Ziploc bags.
- Frozen vegetables
Fruit is higher in sugar and is really not a nutritional necessity, so I rarely buy it unless I get it at a bargain price. I live about 30 minutes from a city grocery where marked-down produce is cheap and in good condition (15-20 bananas, 8 oranges, or 10 apples for 79 cents). This is generally put out only first thing in the morning and early evening, and not every day as far as I can tell.
My favorite low-carb recipe site is Linda's Low Carb Menus and Recipes. Linda's been adding new recipes for years and cooks on a very tight budget without special or especially costly ingredients, so her site is a very good reference for the frugal paleo or low carb family.